Critical Context

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 163

Fowles has said that he intended to produce a realistic version of The Magus in The Ebony Tower, and in essence, the novella is exactly that: a condensed examination of the same themes without the mystical overlay of the earlier novel. Coming at the first peak of his critical and popular acclaim, The Ebony Tower was a significant success and a summary of his concerns up to this point; it makes accessible the often elusive ideas in his earlier works while anticipating several yet to come, such as the function of the muse, explored in depth in Mantissa (1982).

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The novella reinforces Fowles’s beliefs about the necessary demands of freedom and the responsibilities of choice in a world governed by hazard, or contingency-outlined in his philosophical work, The Aristos: A Self-Portrait in Ideas (1964)-and it furthers his experimentation in narrative technique and his explorations into the failure of linguistic systems. Philosophically, it is a masterful variation on Fowles’s personal version of existentialism.

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